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Photo project: "A woman being"

Woman - An adult female human being. (oxford dictionary)

Photography for me is the way to question and understand the world. It must be sincere and the best way to be sincere is to investigate the themes which are actual for you.
I started working on the project “A woman being” to find the holistic meaning of the word “Woman” to understand and to accept this woman with all her shapes and shades in myself.
“A woman being” is a project about a modern Azerbaijani woman who is changing the mindset and environment around herself.  She is strong, she is brave, she is innovative and she is peaceful.
She can be a businesswoman supporting small local businesses, a fashion designer giving a woman the belief in her natural beauty, an event organizer holding techno parties, a yoga teacher giving love and changing the inner worlds.

All the women in the project were asked to think about their understanding of “Woman” while they were photographed.
They firstly answered me silently, with their eyes only.
The photographs are reflected and show the image that only the protagonist sees in the mirror.
It gives the viewer the feeling of looking in the mirror and seeing himself reflected with those eyes full of answers.
To understand the point of view of protagonists, the viewer is suggested to look into their eyes for 17 seconds, to feel the answers, define one or more which is more suitable for him/her and even go further and to think over their understanding of the word “Woman”.

Answering the simple question “what is a woman?” these women also opened me their understanding of the word and gave me 10 different views on the same concept verbally.

- "A woman is a proportionally ideal combination of strength, patience, tenderness, beauty and intelligence. Woman is warmth and care. This makes us who we are, both physically and mentally. She is as destructive as creative. She is an element. She can not be maintained, she can only be accepted, studied, admired and worshiped."

- "A woman is an inspiration, a push for innovation both for society and herself."

- "A woman is a human. It's not like you can find or define some set of qualities describing all women in the world. Every woman can choose the way she wants to be. She can be strong and weak, outstanding and modest, determined and indecisive, brave and timid, emotional and patient, bold and gentle, feminine and masculine - whatever, as long as it makes her happy."

- "A woman is a power of feelings, a courage of emotions and a miracle of a new life"

- "A woman is a powerful creative mechanism of complex structure. To find a woman in myself, to reveal, accept, love her remains one of the main goals for me."

- "A woman is a natural marvel. She is habitually a mother - literally and metaphorically. With or without her own child, it is her steady state of being. A woman is the perfect, most balanced fusion of patience and fragility, tenderness and harshness. She is able to forgive, yet is viciously vindictiv ,a combination of tangled disarray and ideal harmony. A woman is the chaos composed by the flow of order. She is the friend of a man, that final, completing piece to supernatural grace. She is a mother, and she is the most dynamic and divine phenomenon."

- "Woman is a stamina, along with an emotional storm and an extremely sensual foundation. A woman includes an unlimited number of personalities, and therefore it would be disrespectful to define her with a concept within a framework. The woman is the basis."

- "A woman is an incredible power to live this life through a great heart."

- " "Woman is love" told my daughter when I asked her: "What is a woman?". The same definition I wrote in my notebook before asking her, it was the first thing that came to my mind."

- "With gender being a spectrum, not a binary, being a woman to me means being myself and being part of a community that honors the female, enacts the feminine, and exceeds the limitations of a sexist society."

Sharaf Naghiyeva is a portrait photographer based in Baku, Azerbaijan. The main theme of her photography is the Individual, self-expressed through portrait, fashion or nude photography. With Emin Mathers, she has founded f3.7—a photographers' union—to share exciting reviews, online exhibitions and other photography-related news.

Want to get to know someone well? Take their photograph. Sharaf says her creative energy flows in two directions. It runs towards the model in the viewfinder just to make a u-turn and hit back with the dreams, fears, and aspirations of her subjects. In the same vein, this creative process becomes a confessional of sorts for the photographer as well, bringing forth unintended or unrealised thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. It is a dialogue of an extremely private nature that removes all boundaries. But for Sharaf, it is the best form of communication and discovery.

Sharaf had started with a simple film camera. It was a diversion of sorts. The enticing magical rituals in the darkroom resulted in disarmingly candid images. She has expanded her praxis to a digital sensor since. According to Sharaf, in photography, experience is only secondary to passion and ambition. In the beginning of her journey, she shot on film all day, every day, using her friends and acquaintances as study subjects. The distinct individual signature transpired a little later, once she re-discovered herself in the process. This personal epiphany led her to seek knowledge and mastery in the art of photography. Anything and everything can serve as a teaching material if there is enough resiliency and drive: ebooks, courses, masterclasses and webinars—the possibilities are limitless. What matters is how one consumes the information. Ideally, it should be a gradual process, revolving around one's needs and potential to absorb the sources, assimilating all into their art and not the other way around.

For Sharaf, portraiture is a dialogue with life. A detail, a gesture, a glimpse is enough to bring about the rest of the vision. There seems to be hardly any breath of life in carefully premeditated and executed shots. Which is why Sharaf chooses to trust providence and her gut feeling in order to capture the right depth and angle in the viewfinder. After all, photography is a way of story-telling; tales of the important, of the forgotten, and of the dreamt.

Written by Halila Bayramova
PhD candidate in English Literature & Digital Humanities